The Help

Change begins with a whisper.

The Help is Tate Taylor’s movie adaptation of the best-selling book by Kathryn Stockett, depicting the civil rights-era in the state of Mississippi. Now, you’d think that a movie about a group of women and the “power of friendship” in the battle for social justice would be a chick flick and maybe even dismiss it because of it.

You’d be wrong. Sure, it is emotional, sometimes even a bit melodramatic and over-the-top, but it is also educational and motivating. It portrays the importance of story-telling, truth and the different perspectives of people. Some would think that they have a right to act as they do because they pay the help for their work, but others (mainly those who have to work for the previous group) believe that they do not have any other options left.

The movie centers on three women – Skeeter, Aibileen and Minny – who band together on a secret writing project, sharing experiences and stories of racism in the South in an effort to collect them in a book and present them to a wider audience in order to bring about a social change. Their efforts are not entirely legal – the Jim Crow laws could cause them to be arrested and the KKK supporters could do even worse – but it does not stop them. Skeeter, a white woman interested in journalism and raised by an African American maid, provides an opportunity to the repressed maids to share their opinions on the treatment and behavior of their mistresses. Not all stories are bad, but the bad outweighs the good by a great margin.

In an era of blockbuster action movies filled with explosions and constant tension, The Help provides a different kind of story-telling. The subtle and elegant flavor of the South with a thunderstorm of emotions underneath will keep you entertained while planting a seed of interest in the difficult position of minorities during the time of segregation. And some would say: “But it barely scratched the surface, there were so many things it didn’t mention, and even some that were misrepresented” – and they wouldn’t be wrong.

You should just keep in mind that it is not a documentary, it is a period drama film, and as such, it does its job. There are even some elements that are controversial in our society today, such as period-typical swearing, the stereotypically ethnic language, drinking, smoking, and even the domestic position of women (even though the character of Skeeter defies it). Those elements reflect the society of the 1960’s. Without them, the movie could be accused of even greater revisionist intentions than it is now.

The movie is carried by its magnificent cast, which includes Viola Davis, Emma Stone, Octavia Spencer, Jessica Chastain, Bryce Dallas Howard, Allison Janney, and many other celebrated actors. In particular, the performance of Viola Davis stands out – delivering a poignant representation of love, loss, and repressed anger. And who would have thought that Emma Stone could perform so well in a drama? Remember, these were the days before La La Land and her Academy Award. And Octavia Spencer! Such a humorous opposition to the subtleness of Viola Davis, but still not lacking the dramatic tension. We say it was well worth the Oskar she received for it.

The Help will entertain you and make you laugh. It will make you emotional and maybe even cause you to hide some tears if you watch it with a group of people. It will distress you, and make you angry at injustice – both past and present. Above all, it will cause you to think and reexamine some opinions and behaviors you had previous to watching it. We fully recommend you to watch it, though maybe not with young children and if you expect mindless fun.

IMDb 4 /5
4 out of 5
Rotten Tomatoes 3.4 /5
3.4 out of 5
Rogue Cinema 3.8 /5
3.8 out of 5

Combined average

3.73out of 5

3.73 out of 5
Category Drama

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